We sat down for a chat with Maria, Danilo and Orietta, the managers of the well-known “La Tortuga” restaurant, which this year celebrates forty uninterrupted years of maintaining its Michelin star. Grab a seat at our table and start to get to know the wonderful family that is so tightly linked to Gargnano that they make the area’s products protagonists in their starred menu.
How did La Tortuga get started?
We opened our restaurant in the early ‘70s; it had been the old village tavern managed by Grandmother Teresa (Mr. Danilo Filippini’s mother, ed.). We got into the restaurant business both for economic reasons and thanks to Danilo’s work experience in a well-known restaurant in Geneva. The Swiss experience changed his mentality so radically that it allowed him to see the food service industry from a broader point of view, rather than from the modest one pervaded in 1970s Italy. We were young and enthusiastic about embarking on a new adventure and had a lot of passion for cooking and hospitality.
How did you achieve your Michelin stars?
Our consistent, tireless work, combined with our love for hospitality, led us to the Michelin star! This year, our star turns 40. One morning in 1980 we woke up and realized that everything we had been doing during our 10 year journey was being recognized as an excellent by those who love to share good food and hospitality and have the right to describe it in guide books that are read all over the world.
Tell us about how you experienced the transition between generations.
It happened almost automatically, in a totally natural way for Danilo and Maria and their mother, Teresa, and now also with Orietta, who is always assisted by Maria and her faithful collaborators. This new generation firmly holds on to the restaurant’s traditions and above all to the flavors that characterize our cooking philosophy.
During 40 years of business there have been some ups and downs. Have you ever just wanted to let it all go?
Dropping everything has never been an option, but sometimes physical fatigue, stress, the weight of the responsibilities of managing a company, even a small one, can beat you down. The satisfaction and rewards, especially from our customers, have always been so numerous that they have helped us forget everything and allowed us to continue on with even greater enthusiasm.
How much has Gargnano’s traditions, culinary and otherwise, influenced your business?
Tradition inevitably influences, as indeed all experiences along every person’s long career path does. Traditions are our foundation because they are a part of the memories of flavors handed down from generation to generation and, above all, allows us to use ingredients from our area, such as those high-quality, healthy products our lake offers and which are part of our local heritage. Surely, to enhance products and use them in alternative ways, you need external stimuli, experiences and knowledge of other flavors, tastes, cooking techniques, etc., but those can be learned especially through traveling or participating in high-level courses with other chefs and experts.
How has the continuous Michelin star recognition influenced you?
For our way of thinking and behaving, the star has not changed us much, as this is how we were born and so, with passion, continue to work - regardless of whether we have it or not. Though it has certainly helped us to expand our customer base both nationally and internationally, for which we can only be grateful.